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Brett Jackson’s contact issues last year – and, really, throughout his career – have been well-documented, and needn’t be belabored here. Suffice it to say, the center field prospect has been working on his swing this offseason, and changing his approach at the plate.

Now that he’s arrived at Spring Training, we get a look at his new stance/hand position/elbow position from the Cubs’ Instagram. It looks like the change is designed to get him into and through the zone much more quickly (the kind of change you’d expect to see from someone having contact issues):

brett jackson batting cage

Jackson, for his part, explained the swing changes, confirming why they were needed, and what they are intended to accomplish.

“It has to do with using more of my top hand,” Jackson said of the changes, per Cubs.com. “I’m a right-hand dominant athlete, and I have a tendency to try to overdo it a little bit with my bottom hand. If you watch swings from last year, you know my back elbow was getting really high and causing kind of like a teetering effect and making me slightly late on everything. Now, I’m working on just keeping my back elbow down and being shorter to the ball, amongst other things, but that’s the biggest adjustment.”

The trick, of course, will be translating those changes to game action. It’s one thing to pull off the new approach in the cage, but quite another when facing a pitcher who’s changing locations, pitches, and speeds.

“It’s become natural at this point and it’s something I have to stay on top of, but every hitter will tell you that,” he said. “I think the learning process is you learn what works and what doesn’t and what adjustments you need to make. That’s what the end of last year allowed me to discover about myself as a hitter, so I was able to make those adjustments in the offseason. I can be a force at the plate instead of battling as I did.”

Here’s hoping the changes take, because Jackson’s skill set is otherwise tantalizing. If he can keep his power and ability to square the ball up, but improve his contact rate slightly, you’re going to see his batting average and on-base percentage improve organically (simply by virtue of putting more balls in play). Combine that with his natural speed, base-running ability, and outfield defense, and you’ve got a quality regular.

Jackson isn’t expected to break camp with the big club, however, regardless of how good he looks in Spring Training. Hopefully, he’ll look good now, look good for a couple months at Iowa, and then the Cubs will have one of those great, tough decisions.

  • Marc N.

    Ch-ch-ch-chaaaaaangeeees.

  • Stevie B

    Any examples of players who have made dramatic changes to change a major flaw and having success???
    I’m not trying to be Danny Downer but if it was this simple, more kids would adapt and make the show….right?

    • Seth

      One that quickly comes to mind. Jose “The Beast” Bautista. Pretty much rejuvenated his career.

      • Hawkeye

        One might imply that it was more than just a “swing change” that rejuvenated his career.

        • Seth

          You could “imply” that, but if it was more than a swing change he’s pretty damn good at hiding it for the past couple of years, unlike our beloved friend, Ryan “The Hebrew Hammer” Braun.

      • http://www.sportsdanny.com Dan

        A swing change and some drugs helped a JB

    • Cedlandrum

      Anthony Rizzo.

      • Marc N.

        Rizzo killed it in AAA twice at younger ages than Jackson.

    • KidCubbie

      Anthony Rizzo.

      • cls

        Jinx! You guys owe me a Coke

      • Stevie B

        What did Rizzo change? I seriously wasn’t aware of a major change he made…

        • Marcel91

          Watch video of his last year in San Diego to this year. Dramatic change.

        • KidCubbie

          He dropped his hands lower. He became a lot quicker to the ball.

          • Good Captain

            Sounds like they’ve made a similar adjustment w/ Jackson then (at least to me).

    • AP

      One major example (though not of a hitter) is Roy Halladay. He went all the way down to A ball and pretty much changed everything about his delivery, mechanics, and approach before making his way back and being who he is today.

      • MoneyBoy

        good one AP … another, though perhaps not so drastic … was what Bosio did with Shark the final time he got sent down!!

    • Noah

      There are success stories, but there are significantly more failures on this front. With that said, the majority of guys who do this don’t have the ceiling of a very good hitter in them the way Rizzo or Joey Bats did, or Jackson should.

      Odds are it doesn’t work, but the odds aren’t like 1 in a million terrible. I’d say odds are somewhere around 50% it does nothing, 25% it helps him cut the Ks down enough to make him a legitimate MLB starter, at least while he’s cheap, 25% he becomes more than that.

      • AP

        I think a lot of it depends on his approach at the plate. Jackson has shown the ability to draw a walk and exhibits a certain level of plate discipline. That will be a good thing for him. Many of the players I’ve seen (bear in mind, I am not a scout or any kind of professional on baseball swings) who have tried to re-tool their swing still exhibit horrific plate discipline which could explain why the changes fail/don’t stick. For example, it just didn’t matter where Corey Patterson started his hands because he still swung at fastballs over his head. Jackson doesn’t seem to swing at fastballs over his head, so if these changes allow him to get to and square up the pitches at which he does swing (which, based on his walk rates, should be in or near the strike zone), I think it will be an effective change that allows him to become a decent hitter.

        • Noah

          I agree that should be a factor that helps him. Since his problem isn’t swinging at bad pitches, but instead being late on pitches in the zone, presumably the necessary fix should just be getting the bat to the ball a bit quicker. Bautista also drew walks prior to his swing change.

        • cub2014

          if jackson could develop in to a .270-.280 hitter with his walk rate the cubs
          would have a big piece of the puzzle (leadoff hitter-power,speed,defense)
          let cross our fingers. we should know in iowa because he only ht .250 their so if he is over .300 then we may have something.

          • Noah

            If Jackson hits .240 with his walk rate and power he’s an at least average center fielder. You’re looking at a guy who would could be fairly conservatively estimated at that point to be in the .240/.330/.420 range, and that would have tied him for 15th highest OPS in baseball among CFs who qualified for the batting title last year. If he hits .270 or .280 he’s an All Star.

    • Jeremy

      Anthony Rizzo

  • Cedlandrum

    If Jackson can make more contact, I think he becomes an all-star because he is just such a good all-around player. Hope it works though I am still a bit skeptical.

  • hansman1982

    Here is his old stance:

    [img]http://delusionalcubsfan.com/wp-admin/images/miscellaneous/brett-jackson-cubs-number-one-pick-2009.jpg[/img]

    • hansman1982

      Here was trial #1 for reworking the swing:

      [img]http://www.theheckler.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/08/2012-8-31-BrettJackson.jpg[/img]
      It didn’t work.

      It is interesting to see Rizzo and Jackson go COMPLETELY away from what was always drilled into my head in little league: “Get that back elbow up…”

      • Stinky Pete

        Is that an Iowa thing? I was told this as well. Putting the elbow up puts loft in the ball. Assuming you can hit it….

        • 100 Years of Tears

          My son’s hitting coach is totally against the back-elbow-up thing. He puts them in a much more natural, comfortable position and the kids have really responded. This coach focuses on hitting doubles and driving the ball. I’ve been pretty impressed with his overall approach, so I’m beginning to see that I was taught improperly as a kid…

          • EQ76

            I was always taught that the back elbow being up helped create the chopping a tree affect. Hitting down through the plane to hit more hard line drives. It works if you are a good contact hitter,

            I know as a player through college, I changed my swing a few times. (open stance… closed stance… elbow up.. elbow down… feet close together for big leg kick,… feet apart and lift foot up and back down…etc. )

            I always went with what made me feel comfortable. when i felt comfortable, i felt more confident. obviously i never made it to the pros, but i’d assume it’s incredibly difficult to change too much and have a massive transformation.. not impossible, but it’ll be hard for him to not slowly fall back to the old habits over time.

            • DocPeterWimsey

              Swinging down on the ball will create line drives only on certain types of pitches. If the pitch is a sinker (which so many are these days), then swinging down on the ball is actually going to work with the pitcher and create grounders. Slugging comes from getting lift on the ball, and slugging is much more important than contact.

              As for altering the stance, that probably has much more effect on the exact location of a batter’s red zone than on how well he actually hits the ball The gradient from red to blue often pretty steep, and pitchers are all aiming for the blue for each individual batter these days. Also, adjusting the stance can slightly alter the spray of grounders, flares, etc.: and as fielders are positioned for where you’ve been hitting the ball, that could slightly increase the number of singles.

              • hansman1982

                Yes, you need some loft in your swing so that it matches the plane of the incoming ball and sends it back out on a similar trajectory.

                • Drew7

                  ^This

      • Chad

        1. Had Jackson worked on a swing change before? I don’t recall.

        2. When your elbow goes up it must come back down to get the bat through the zone. In little league it helps with timingfor young kids but isn’t great for contact or consistency in the swing. A more compact swing actually produces quicker pull through the zone and in skilled hitters more torque which can result in power.

      • Cooper

        Back elbow up was always stressed as a key to more power. I’ll be interested to see if Jackson’s new approach leads to better contact and thus average, but at the cost of less power.

        • cubzfan

          Exactly. He probably developed his earlier swing because he was trying to generate power when he was a scrawny kid. Now that he is a muscly man, he can use his core, forearms, and weight shift to generate plenty of power, plus the energy in the faster pitches helps. He can just put bat on ball and still get plenty of XBH.

    • Zachary

      When Jackson would swing his elbow would still be too high causing him to be late on pitches. Rizzo and Jackson’s new approach is to start them out with a lower elbow so when they swing it helps level it out. Basically they changed their elbow position to counteract what they were doing wrong. Ultimately the swing ends the same it’s just helps them react quicker

  • BD

    Here’s hoping he is ready to roll around the later part of July, so once an OF is traded he can slide right in like Rizzo did last year.

  • Spriggs

    I have been watching Jackson in the cage the last few days at Fitch. He doesn’t look altogether comfortable yet, but the swing and stance look better to me. You can see the concentration and focus he’s applying in every turn in the cage. The results are mixed so far – as you’d expect (lot of foul balls). It also looks like he is keeping his head more still. But he isn’t clowning around as much. I remember last year he and Rizzo had a lot of home run derby type competitions. That isn’t happening (yet). Fingers crossed that this really pays dividends for Jackson.

  • AnkenyHawk

    If you just look at the picture above, that stance just looks stretched out and slow. No wonder he had a hard time getting the bat through the hitting zone quick enough!

    • DocPeterWimsey

      A stance looks slow. Wow. Just. Wow.

      • Chad

        Yes the stance is a big driver for timing and being able to get the hands through. So a stance can look slow. Not sure why that wows you, but if that does I have a lot of nifty other tidbits, like the arm angle affects the velocity or spin of a pitch etc. Let me know, I’ve got plenty more where that came from.

        • DocPeterWimsey

          I’ve seen guys get bats through the strike zone quickly using any number of stances, including BJax’s current stance.

          And if you want to tell me that a still shot of an object in motion is informative, then I will not argue with you. Just don’t tell me that a shot of a stationary object is informative about what happens once it moves.

          • DarthHater

            If the stationary object is a human body, then its position when it is stationary may tell you a whole heck of a lot about how quickly it is going to be able to do something once it moves. For example, anyone who has ever run track knows that some stationary positions in the starting blocks are better than others.

            • Spriggs

              That must be why they made me run the mile on my track team.

            • DocPeterWimsey

              Ah, but think of how you run track. You actually assume 3 stances, or at least they used to do: a starting stance (standing), an initial kneeling stance, and then what I always thought of as the “rabbit” stance (where you are poised to go on the gun).

              Batting is similar in that most guys have a starting stance (which we are seeing in this picture) and then “drop” into the swing stance as the pitcher begins his motion. Rizzo does this pretty dramitically. Historically, Sandberg used to have his rocking motion, where he would coil back as the pitcher wound up. Dawson would go from weight on his front foot to weight on his back foot. Eric Davis would dangle the bat over his shoulder and then snap to attention as the pitcher started.

              Many of those initial stances looked bad, but they did not make the guy slow.

              • hansman1982

                And, in running there are optimal stances for each of those three. If you see a guy sitting in a barcalounger for his starting stance, he better be Apollo, himself, to get to the optimum “rabbit” stance.

                Now there is a great deal of inferring that Mr. Barcalounger would be slow down the track, just as there is in the statement above.

            • Jono

              Great point. As the former first leg of my 4×1 team in highscool, and an open 100 runner, I can confirm that to be very very true. Great comparison

          • hansman1982

            This is the answer to the question:

            “How do guys like Jackson get to the bigs with such a flaw”

            A hitting coach’s job is not to get everyone to hit the same way. If a batter needs to stand on his head, then so be it. A parellel is the Diamondbacks with Bauer. He wasn’t going to do it their way so he got shipped out. Well, their way may not work for Bauer, just like Anthony Rizzo’s swing may not work for Jackson.

            If you want proof that there is no magical swing for batters or a right or wrong way to do it, google “Babe Ruth Swing Analysis”. Basically, everything he did is “wrong”.

            • MightyBear

              Not sure where You’re going with this. I googled babe ruth’s swing analysis and the first link said he had good mechanics and another compared it to Bonds and they were almost identical. Not sure where Ruth was “wrong”

              • hansman1982

                Maybe everything wrong was a bit strong, and there were a few things that he did that were similar to Bonds but he also had an incredibly long swing, had quite a bit of hand movement, moved his head and his body wasn’t in “proper” alignment when the ball met the bat.

                Now, it worked very well for him but having those things in another hitter may be a disaster.

          • hansman1982

            Isn’t that what Paleo-scientists do? They look at a distint snapshot in time and discern everything they can from that snapshot?

            • hansman1982

              distint – just so people know I’m not terrible at spelling – this was supposed to be “distinct”

            • DocPeterWimsey

              Um, no, not many of us do that anymore! That’s not even your father’s paleo: more like your great-grandfather’s! We like to get pretty rich sample sizes these days, and then use sampling theory to limit the range of explanations for what happened. That sort of would be like using dozens of shots of BJax’s swing, and reconstructing what happened. Of course, a swing is a much simpler system, so you actually would only need a handful of shots (from start to contact/miss) to describe pretty exactly what happened.

              • MightyBear

                Ah the good old paleo days.

      • Edwin

        It’s like he’s not even moving!

        • TWC

          You might say that picture makes his stance look frozen in time.

          • FFP

            As much as I am enjoying this, the after picture hansman supplies made me smile even more.
            That’s the problem with instantaneous slowness, if always goes off on a tangent.

          • frank

            Frozen in time? That’s pretty slow . . .

  • Jacob

    I really think Jackson is going to figure it out (to a degree) and become an above average center fielder. I’m excited for what he’s going to do, in Iowa and then at the Major League level after he’s called up, this year.

    • hansman1982

      the good thing, even in his horrific callup last year, he was a borderline 5th OF and he provided more runs per PA than Mather and was in the top 160-170 of OF with >150 PA last year.

      • Jacob

        The good thing about Jackson is that he has tools that can play at the MLB level, even if his hitting tool doesn’t pan out. If he can’t hit, he’ll never be a starter… but that doesn’t mean he can’t contribute to a MLB club with his defense and baserunning ability.

        • Jacob

          And I just realized I put “the good thing” right after you did… way to be original, Jacob…. haha. My bad.

  • Melrosepad

    That stance looks similar to the one Rizzo uses. Wonder if he asked for tips.

    • Noah

      It might be one the Cubs like using. When Rizzo started working on his current swing, he had essentially the same organizational leadership in San Diego that he has now in Chicago.

  • terencem

    It’s kind of hard to tell much from the top photo compared to the one linked in the comments. I can’t wait to finally see him in action soon enough.

    • terencem

      I mean he’s just kind of waiting on a pitch to be thrown in the top photo but in the comments photo, it looks like the pitch is on the way.

  • another JP

    When raising the elbow in the setup it eventually has to drop down during the swing, so Jackson should be quicker through the ball, although I’m sure he has a tendency to pop it up right now. If he could get his K rate under 25% he’d definitely be a starting CF for many years given his oher tools are quite solid.

  • mak

    Love that kid’s attitude. Not easy to accept a change when what you’ve done has been ‘working” all of your life. I have a hard time believing he’ll be anything other than a starting outfielder for many years.

  • Jim

    I expect Junior Lake to be moved to the outfield, plus you have Sczur, Soler, and Almora coming? This means that Jackson had better figure things out or he will get buried in the system in a hurry. This doesn’t include the guys that are already ahead of him. That being said, I hope he lights up AAA and allows the Cubs to move DeJesus or ? at the deadline. I do not expect him to be brought up as a 4th or 5th outfielder, he has to earn a starting spot to come up.

    • Cedlandrum

      I mean you aren’t incorrect but Lake, Szczur, Solar and Almora have a ton to work on as well, so I am not sure that Jackson needs to worry about them. He will either make it or wont.

  • Pistolpete

    I really can’t believe it has taken him and the organization to do this.

  • Believe in 2015

    I have a feeling that Brett Jackson is going to have a special season and become a core piece for the Cubs in years to come.

  • Fastball

    His swing was very long. hands to high and his swing went around the zone instead of through it. also he was crouching/squatting down in his stance with his feet to far apart. that causes the head to move up and down and not stay in place. he couldn’t keep his head still along with have a ling swing. now he is more upright a much better position to follow the ball from. hands in and elbow down and in forces a hands ffirst bat head trailing.compact swing. its the proper way to teach a kid to hit. his mechanics and physical approach at the plate was all fouled up too many people convincing him on crazy gimmicks pretty soon your swing is fubar . somebody smart is caching him now so it seems.

  • TWC

    I think its a frackin’ RIOT that so many of you know *exactly* what’s wrong with Brett Jackson’s swing. If only he had listened to you in the first place!

    Carry on, hitting coaches. Carry on.

    • hansman1982

      Hey, this is a place for discussion and discourse. I will NOT have you trampling on my first amendment right to sound like an ass.

      BRETT – WHERE IS THAT DANG IGNORE BUTTON!!!!!!

      • Jono

        Twc will start taking our guns soon, too

      • TWC

        Larf. Oh, I don’t want anyone to stop. I just get a kick out of it. Same way I get a kick out of the deep discussions of pitching motions/mechanics.

        For me, it’s much easier to speculate/debate/discuss baseball strategy (drafting, batting order, game decisions, statistics, etc.) — things that involve analysis of voluminous data — than it is for a non-sports physiologist to review the mechanics of hitting or pitching — things for which the data isn’t as accessible (if it’s even available). Most folks who chime in on these things do it anecdotally (“my coach taught me this…”, “we did this in college…”). If someone said, “my coach alway taught me to bunt to lead off the 5th inning,” they’d be laughed off with the data that shows why bunting is always stupid (that’s a joke, kids). I just don’t see this type of data being used in the discussions of pitching/hitting mechanics, so it all comes across to me as speculation/hearsay.

        • scorecardpaul

          by the way, from the look of your avitar, you must be playing a slow song? It doesn’t look fast!!

        • another JP

          The same way I get a kick out of people who bash those who are just agreeing with the approach Sveum- a former hitting coach- has laid out for Jackson. Actually, it’s really annoying and just your way of trying to be an expert over all of us. Carry on and larf some more.

  • ruby2626

    What’s alarming to me was his inordinate amount of called looking strikeouts. Don’t really think a new stance is going to change that.

  • Spriggs

    Just a heads up that the Boys of Spring guy was shooting video of B Jackson today taking his cuts – and he is going to put that up on his site later. I haven’t checked yet, but it should be up there today or tomorrow at the latest…

  • BluBlud

    A perfect scenario would be Soriano repeats last year, Sappelt and Dejesus makes for a good CF platoon and Hairston Smashes against lefties. Jackson tears AAA apart like Rizzo with his new swing while schierholtz stinks it up Marlon Byrd 2012 style. Jackson lefty bat replaces schierholtz, moves into center with Sappelt, Dejesus back to Right with Hairston and I don’t have to watch schierholtz play all year.

  • Chase S.

    Speaking of swing changes, anyone see this bit about Dan Vogelbach trimming down? I may be behind in this news but regardless it makes me wonder how it will affect his power. I’m sure it can’t be a bad thing though.

    Here’s the blog piece from Boys of Spring:

    http://boysofspring.com/daniel-vogelbach/

    • JoeyCollins

      Just watched the video also. Didn’t see much of him before the weight loss but don’t think he fills the “tub of lard” description people have used before. Gonna be interesting how he plays first this year.

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